Please forgive the dry nature of this post. I think it's important. You may not.
Sam, how right you are to question this passage:
That word you were talking about in the 1 Corinthians, from what I heard/read means 'men in a bed together,' literally speaking. It wasn't defined as homosexual until the 19th century.
1Cor 6:9 has two words that, when translated into English, have been understood to be directed against homosexuality. The Greek the words, malakoi(s)
, are problematic for different reasons, however.
- is an adjective.
appears in Matt 11:8 and Luke 7:25 and is the neuter/plural form of malakos
appears in 1Cor 6:9 and is the masculine/plural form of malakos
. This is the full extent of the appearance of the malakos
adjective in the New Testament.
It appears in ancient Greek texts and is understood to mean, variously, freshly plowed (when talking about land), luxurious (when talking about clothing) and is also used to mean temple idol slaves or servants (Homer and others).
The Latin Vulgate Bible, from the 5th century translated malakois
(Matt 11:8 and Luke 7:25) into mollibus
, which means "luxurious" or "effeminate". It translated malakoi
(1Cor 6:9) into idolis servientes
, which means idol slaves or servants.
The King James version (1611), which relied heavily on the Vulgate, translated malakois
to "soft" in Matt and Luke, as it was referring to clothing. But in 1Cor, evidently not being happy with "idol servants" they translated malakoi
into "effeminate". It seems to many scholars that the Latin translators were closer in time and culture than the English translators, so they would have a better idea of meaning. None-the-less, the KJV translation has, of course, stuck ever since.
As far as arsenokoitay
is concerned it appears twice in scripture and not at all in classic Greek literature. It is a compound word, not uncommon in Greek. 1 Cor 6:9 uses arsenokoitay
and 1Tim 1:10 uses arsenokoitais
. The words combined to make the first word are arsen
(adjective neuter/singular), o
(masculine definite article) and koitay
(noun feminine/singular). The second word is the same, except that koitais
Now, the first thing is that the Greek language is gender specific. These words have feminine endings which means they refers to something female. The word parts are varied, however. arsen
means “male”. o
is the male definite article (the). koitey
, the root of koitay
, means “bed” or "place where koitus
(coitus) occurs" - can we presume "female's bed", since it is feminine?
What was being communicated here? No-one is really sure. The KJV opted for “the abusers of themselves with mankind”. The NIV went with “homosexual offenders”. The NRSV went with “sodomites”.
The notion of "men in a bed together" is not literal at all, but shows the same bias as KJV, by assuming a lot of things that the Greek, or Latin, doesn't say.
But the Vulgate, translated 1000 years earlier, and closer to the original culture, than the KJV translated to adulteri
, which means “adulterer” but in the female tense. You could argue that this doubles up on the earlier use of adulterer appearing in the same verse, but that one is male tense.
So which meaning do you want to use? It seems you have quite the range of choices, and biblical scholars can’t agree – can we?
I think, Sam, you show maturity in questioning the use of this passage.